Last week the New York Times published a piece titled “White Collar Quarantine” that struck me as something many in Boulder are experiencing, myself included. I’ve had conversations over the last few weeks about this dynamic. Conversations about how in a town where the true extent of our affluence is often forgotten, and in a company where our day to work process barely flinched, the stay at home orders seem more like an extended staycation.  My neighbor told me that it felt like God gave us a time out. I’ll be the first to admit it has been nice at times. Mixed feelings for sure. Part fear, part blessing, and part guilt. Two weeks ago, I couldn’t find toilet paper, but I was able to buy free-range pork chops and Kobe beef for a backyard bar-b-que.  I’m the poster child for the White Collar Quarantine. Not so much for the restaurant and other small business workers who aren’t able to so easily continue to work or for which their businesses were ordered to shut down. Many volunteer opportunities have shut down too in light of the ordered limitations on gatherings.  How do we pay it forward for these folks?

Love Local – Help Save Your Favorites

This pandemic is unprecedented and scary for sure.  Unprecedented not just in its effects but in the speed at which it shifted our lives, the economy, and our perceptions about the future.  Three weeks ago, our firm was discussing how strong our first quarter financials were looking and anticipating the same trajectory for the foreseeable future.  As a law firm, our numbers will somewhat lag the near-instantaneous nature of this slowdown, and we won’t be able to see the financial impact for some months (scary in itself).  In the meantime, it is hard to sit in our comfy homes with nearly every amenity available at the click of a mouse while so much of our community is on the front lines or still trying to scrape by to serve the rest of us.  So while our balance sheet is still in decent shape, our firm announced our own “mini-stimulus” for our staff. No strings attached, but it was done with the stated preference to use it to help support those restaurants and businesses in our communities that they would hate to see go out of business.   At the end of this article is a list of the establishments that came to mind across our team, but there are many, many more, and there are many local efforts to do the same. Many of these businesses are close to our main office in Boulder, but many others are in each of our neighboring communities.

Some Silver Linings and a Note to Our Clients

In this dark cloud of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been another more personal silver lining for our practice; remote working has given us a glimpse of each other’s everyday lives.  While all are equipped to work remotely, many of our team members do not have dedicated office space in their homes. I have met my team’s families, kids, pets, seen into their home lives, and perhaps even learned a little more about what motivates them and excites them – just by using video calls.  Perhaps the now forbidden nature of in-person contact has enticed us all to want that more, and I find myself reaching out on video more than I might have done in a typical day to day setting.  

I have found it refreshing to be able to work remotely more, step away from my desk when I need to, plan my hours, and plot tasks in a way that fosters creativity in a different way. At Neugeboren O’Dowd, we have never had prescribed hours, have always been 100% remote-capable, and implemented unlimited time off several years ago.  As long as tasks are handled, we can work in ways that suit us from day to day. However, right now, because being remote is mandated, I sense a growing ease that working from home is a viable scenario for more people.

We, as a team, have accomplished the same amount of work over the last few weeks from home as we would have sitting in an office building.  I am seriously starting to wonder if – when the pandemic is over – companies will re-evaluate the need for office space, or at least re-evaluate the extent needed.

Related article: My Brush With Big-Law Burnout 

Embracing Technology

Our entire staff has always been enabled to work remotely; it is, and always has been, part of our firm’s ethos. We have always embraced technology and made sure that our team members have everything they need to complete their tasks successfully from the comfort of their homes or on the road.

As Intellectual Property specialists, we deal with technology, branding, and marketing companies as clients, so everyone we work with is very used to electronic communications and are savvy with technology. We have clients and associates in other states and other countries, so we have always depended on the electronic world to communicate with them. When we engage new clients, we tell them that we are 100% electronic, as much as we can be. We joke that if you get something in the physical mail from us, it’s either because it’s an original document that you need to keep safe, or something’s gone wrong!

The technology that we use for our remote work has morphed over the years and upgraded and changed over time. Still, we have always had the ability to work remotely via a laptop or desktop computer. We have encryption and network security in place to allow each of our team members to securely and quickly log in to our servers and to access our system.  

We are not a huge firm, so we do not utilize applications such as Slack or Microsoft Teams; these apps are too big a hammer for the number of people we have and would only create more work and inefficiencies for our staff. We are, however, very communicative. Because our office is relatively small, we typically did not use Zoom, Google Hangouts or UberConference to talk to each other too much, until now. Just this past week, we had our first office Zoom meeting with everybody on the screen – everybody logged on, no one had problems, and it worked well.  If the Coronavirus has proven anything, it is the need to learn technology and embrace remote working for almost every business. 

During this pandemic, nothing has changed for our clients or us in terms of the work we do. We are fully functional and our docketing and other systems are 100% online and accessible.  Aside from some “can I get a bigger monitor” requests, switching to remote work was a matter of flipping a switch and locking the office doors on our way out. Kudos to Bernadette Barrett, Rene Roskam, and RMTT for keeping things up to date and processes in place to make it so seamless.

Related article: What Lawyers and Clients Need to Know About the Use of Artificial Intelligence 

Not every firm was able to make this transition so easily, so here are a few suggestions to make this scenario  more routine:

Tips To A Successful Remote Work Life

  • It is helpful to create physical boundaries for your workspace. I think it’s important to have a way to physically distinguish work from play and home, and make sure the rest of the folks in your household respect that. Treat it like work, at least for certain designated hours of the day.
  • Physically, you have to take care of yourself, exercise, and eat well. If you can’t go to the gym, bring the gym to you – get some weights or take a walk outside. 
  • Continue to have interpersonal relationships. If you are a leader in a company, reach out to your team to say hi and check in on how they are doing and see how you can help. 
  • Take care of yourself; shower, shave, comb your hair, put on a nice shirt. Just make yourself feel like you’re working.
  • Reach out to clients and check-in, show them you are thinking about them, and let them know you are still fully functional, and can help them in some way. Now is the time to be more personal with your clients and maybe forego the business talk.
  • Embrace technology. If you’re someone who is maybe a little bit afraid of that or timid of it, this is the perfect time to lean in and make sure you understand how to use it. It’s an opportunity for folks who may not be as comfortable with technology to thrive and learn to be an expert.

Love Local

During this time, it is even more critical to support your local businesses, and our team here at NOD would like to give a shout out to our local favorites and go-to places that we want to see for years to come.  All of these are doing takeout or delivery orders still or will sell a gift card for use later. Especially if you find yourself in a white collar quarantine, visit your own local spot and help pay it forward a bit!

North Side Tavern – Broomfield

Early Bird Restaurant – Westminster

The Hungry Toad – Boulder

Truman’s Barber Shop – Boulder

Nepal Cuisine – Boulder

Gondolier Italian Eatery – Boulder

Caffe Sole – Boulder

Rebecca’s Apothecary – Boulder

Sushi Zanmai – Boulder

New Moon Bakery & Cafe – Nederland

Ruthie’s Boardwalk Social – Boulder

Cacciatore at Heller’s Kitchen – Fort Collins

Falafel King – Boulder

One Boulder Fitness – Boulder

Ted’s Montana Grill – Westminster

Big Mac and Little Lus – Westminster

Zoe’s Kitchen – Boulder

Cyclhops and Oskar Blues – Longmont/Lyons

Cannon Mine Coffee – Lafayette

Upslope Brewing Company – Boulder

Front Range Brewing Company – Lafayette

Southern Sun/Under The Sun – Boulder

Ozo Coffee – Boulder

Picas – Boulder

The Dugout Grill – Erie

Panang Thai Cuisine – Lafayette

Beleza Coffee – Boulder

Little Brazil – Lakewood

CrossFit Profectus – Broomfield

Mod Market – Boulder

Busaba Thai – Louisville

Boss Lady Pizza – Boulder

My Ramen & Izakaya – Boulder

Village Coffee Shop – Boulder


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